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Before ‘Evermore’: 10 Fast Follow-Up Albums, From ‘Zuma’ to ‘Amnesiac’

Years before Taylor Swift, these artists waited only a few months between high-profile LPs

Like Taylor Swift in 2020, Elton John and Bob Dylan both released two LPs in rapid succession in the Seventies.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images; Beth Garrabrant*; Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

As everyone learned last Thursday, Taylor Swift followed Folklore with a new record, Evermore, a mere five months later. But it’s hardly the first time a major artist has given the world an entirely fresh album very soon after a major release. Here’s a brief history of the fast follow-up in pop (starting in the Seventies, when artists started taking more time between albums)  — and the way it could save (or damage) careers.

Bob Dylan

Albums: Self Portrait and New Morning (1970)

Time between releases: Four months

Back story: One of pop’s most infamous disasters, Self Portrait was a double LP largely made up of overproduced covers of other people’s material — in other words, the last thing anyone would have expected from Dylan at the time. Reviews were largely bad (“The purpose of Self-Portrait is mainly product and the need it fills is for product — for ‘a Dylan album’ — and make no mistake about it,” said RS in its review). Perhaps to salvage his rep, Dylan rolled out a set of new originals, New Morning, just over a dozen weeks later. “To me, it was a joke,” Dylan later said of Self Portrait.

Neil Young

Albums: Tonight’s the Night and Zuma (1975)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: Most of Tonight’s the Night had actually been cut two years earlier, but Young withheld the album until he played it for friends at a party, who preferred it over the more genteel Homegrown (which was only recently excavated). Although now considered a classic of frazzled nerves, Tonight’s the Night alienated many listeners, paving the way for Zuma, a more straightforward rock record recorded with the reconstituted Crazy Horse that let fans breathe easier. “Somehow I feel like I’ve surfaced out of some kind of murk,” Young told RS shortly before he released Zuma. “And the proof will be in my next album. Tonight’s the Night, I would say, is the final chapter of a period I went through.”

Grateful Dead

Albums: Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty (1970)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: Early in 1970, the Dead, deep in debt, cranked out the folksy, more radio-friendly Workingman’s Dead as both a way to return to their unplugged roots and to make some money. Soon after its release, they already had a slew of new, equally accessible songs like “Truckin’” and struck while the Dead iron was still hot. For Jerry Garcia, the avalanche of new tunes ripe for recording had a lot to do with circumstances: “Well, Robert Hunter [Garcia’s lyricist] and I were living together then,” he told RS in 1991, “so that made it real easy. Sheer proximity.”

Elton John

Albums: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies (1975)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: The autobiographical Captain Fantastic was yet another milestone in Elton’s career — the first album to enter the pop chart at Number One. But by the time it came out, he’d overhauled his band and was so inspired that he cranked out a new, less ambitious album months later. Rock of the Westies also debuted in the top spot — but wound up selling less than its predecessor. “I knew I was taking a bit of a gamble and it was like, ‘Oh, here comes another Elton John album!’” he told RS in 1976. “A lot of critics said it didn’t have much depth to it and probably it doesn’t have much depth to it.”


Albums: Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001)

Time between releases: Seven months

Back story: After the grueling experience of recording, promoting, and touring behind OK Computer, Radiohead crashed, physically and creativity. When they reconvened to create new music, they wound up with enough material for two records: the experimental Kid A and the more accessible Amnesiac, and split them in two. “One is like very broken machinery,” Thom Yorke told RS at the time. “The other is really fat and dark.” As with Tonight’s the Night, Amnesiac reassured Radiohead fans that the band could still make somewhat more conventional, but still daring, rock & roll.


Albums:  Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 (2005)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: Eager to reconnect with her core audience after her English-language breakthrough Laundry Service, Shakira recorded Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 entirely in Spanish. But still wanting to extend her crossover success, she followed it with an English-language record months later. “It just happened,” she said. “I found myself writing 60 songs and put myself on the mission of selecting my favorite ones, which happened to be 20.” But Oral Fixation didn’t truly take off until “Hips Don’t Lie,” cut with Wyclef Jean, was tacked on to it later.

System of a Down

Albums: Mesmerize and Hypnotize (2005)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: Against the backdrop of the Iraq War, System of a Down wound up with a ton of new songs for their first album in four years, including “B.Y.O.B” (short for “bring your own bombs”). Although they planned to release a double CD, they realized such a sonic assault would be overwhelming for their fans. “You can’t just release double albums and expect people to sit there and devote their time to it,”  said guitarist Daron Malakian. “Our songs are tough to digest and I would feel really uncomfortable handing someone a CD with 25 songs staring them in the face.” The result — two separate but not entirely different albums that didn’t alienate any of their faithful.


Albums: Future and HNDRXX (2017)

Time between releases: One week

Back story: The Atlanta rapper was prolific to begin with, pumping out mixtapes in the middle of the last decade. But in 2017, he ramped up his creativity to a degree no one has yet topped: His radio-friendly fifth album, Future, was followed a mere seven days later by the more introspective HNDRXX. “I’ve been sad before, so why not make something that’s sad?” he said of the latter. “If people in their life are sad, it’s not a bad thing.” As a result, Future scored two consecutive Number One albums — but, historically, one week after the next.

Ariana Grande

Albums: Sweetener (2018) and Thank U, Next (2019)

Time between releases: Six months

Back story: If pain is art, as the saying goes, then pain also prompts more art. No sooner had Grade released Sweetener than her world imploded: Her engagement to Pete Davidson collapsed, and her previous partner, Mac Miller, died of an overdose. With all that on her plate and her mind, Grande cranked out a less produced, more vulnerable, and equally lauded follow-up in only a few weeks. “I made it with my best friends over the course of a really small period of time, and it kind of saved my life,” she said. “It was kind of this super challenging chapter that sucked, and then my friends made it amazing and special.”


Albums: Baby on Baby and Kirk (2019)

Time between releases: Five months

Back story: Despite a slow start, first recording as Baby Jesus, the rapid-fire rapper made up for lost time: His 2019 debut, a Top 10 record that included his hit “Suge,” was still slamming the charts when he dropped its follow-up, Kirk. He wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, either: Only seven months after Kirk, he dropped this year’s Blame It on Baby. Talking to RS this year about his barrage of music, he said, “Some people wait because they have to. Fortunately enough, I wasn’t put in that position. I had the green light, and everything I’ve dropped was hot. If I didn’t put out new music, there wouldn’t be ‘Rockstar.’ I’d still be trying to beat out ‘Suge.’”

From Rolling Stone US